Summary of the story so far (because it's been forever since I updated):
Act I: Family
James and Lily were not killed that Halloween night; they were instead sent into the future as a sadistic punishment by Voldemort that didn't pan out as the Dark Lord expected. After reuniting with Harry, James and Lily took him (along with Remus, Hermione and a now cleared Sirius) back to the family seat (Rowan Hill) to catch up. Harry learned of the prophecy from his parents after which Hermione declares her unswerving support – and love – for Harry while the rest learn of his abuse at the hands of the Dursleys. James et al, have revenge, but not before being confronted by Harry in his pain.
The family comes close quickly through shared bonds of suffering and affection while Harry and Hermione become a very serious couple, realizing that which has already existed.
Harry survives the first task via broomstick. He attempts (with the consent of the newly established and expanded family) to be involved minimally in the second task, but Dumbledore has placed Neville at the bottom of the Black Lake when Hermione is protected by James and Sirius from being forced to participate.
Neville has replaced Ron as Harry's best mate, as Ron was consumed by jealousy at the attention Harry received after being forcibly entered into the tournament along with the miraculous return of the elder Potters.
With the disclosure of the prophecy and James and Lily becoming informed of Voldemort's extensive activity prior to their return to the time stream, it's decided that Harry's (and therefore Hermione's as well) education needs to be accelerated, focusing in the wand based subjects plus potions. The family, plus Flitwick, tutors the couple at Hogwarts where they use the school's facilities.
Hermione has a significant falling out with her parents as a result of an interview gone wrong with the infamous Rita Skeeter after which Sirius offers a magical protectorate for Hermione that is a pseudo-adoption. Her parents give her an ultimatum: us or magic in which Hermione chooses magic.
James and Sirius re-assume their Wizengamot seats as the Earl of Richmond (James) and the Earl of Blackmoor (Sirius). James quickly assumes an unwanted political leadership role, leveraging his relationship with the goblins to help block speciest legislation. Sirius, with his girlfriend, and later Fiancée, Hestia Jones work behind the scenes paving the way for their work after the nightmare to come.
Prior to the third task, Harry declares his devotion to Hermione in an impromptu proposal that is more of a fulfilment of his pre-Christmas gift of entailed Potter jewellery. The task itself is a mess in which Harry does the minimum to participate (Fleur Delacour wins the tournament), but Harry, Hermione, James and Lily are forcibly transported to the Little Hangleton graveyard where, after doing much damage to the reconstituted Death Eaters, they see Voldemort resurrected. The Dark Lord manages to escape, but not before incapacitating Harry.
Act II: Love
In the wake of the Death Eater victory at Little Hangleton, Voldemort assumes control of Magical Great Britain in his own version of a combined Night of the Long Knives and the Night of Broken Glass. Harry's incapacitation is effectively a coma for which there is no discernible cause aside from a single curse from Voldemort. The entire family is consumed by grief, each dealing (or not dealing) in their own way. Hermione feels driven to the edge as she's without her parents, the new extended family and Harry. Sirius & Remus are fighting the guerrilla war while James, the now known to be pregnant Lily, and Alexandra Price (Remus' long lost love now reunited) spend most of their time researching a cure for Harry, while Hestia is consumed with the ICW supporting Dumbledore and Amelia Bones in attempting to establish a government in exile while attempting to rally international support. Shortly after Hermione slips up and discloses the nature of the prophecy regarding Harry and Voldemort to Alex, Harry miraculously recovers. Alex, who is a healer, can find no attributable cause for the recover, but is convinced that it is due to the nature of the prophecy; what exactly, no one knows. With Harry's revival, the family begins to recover, but the painful past catches up to Sirius causing a nervous breakdown. Under professional care, he is symptomatic of the family's slow recovery from the return of Voldemort and the damage incurred therein.
Afraid of Voldemort terrorizing the tenants of the house of Richmond, their properties and industries, James' venture back to England is derailed when the Queen and Prince William survive a Voldemort attack before fleeing to France. Lily leads the party in place of her husband, with Remus, Harry and Hermione along for assistance. At the end of the trip, they are accosted by a wizard identifying himself as 'Dormred ap Morag' who claims to be responsible for Harry's isolation from the family through potion control of the Weasleys (former stewards of the House of Richmond). Upon Lily's return to Spain, she questions the portraits of the family's forbears and discovers and on-again, off-again blood feud stretching back to 800 A.D. with a family wronged by the Potters. The head of that family was named Dormred ap Morag; their family name has been lost to time
In Paris, the Queen calls for the survivors of the Ministry of Magic to form a government in exile, in which James is named the Foreign Minister (as well as the Ambassador to the ICW) under acting Minister Amelia Bones. Hestia is named Deputy Minister. The Queen, in fear for her grandson's life, asks James to take Prince William into the Richmond home near Benicarló, Spain where he makes fast friends with Harry, Hermione, Neville and Susan quickly earning the nickname from Sirius of 'Billy the Fish'.
Arthur Weasley standing in as the de facto Minister of War is torn between his overwhelming duties coordinating the war effort, and the loss of his son Percy, who has been missing since the fall of the realm. Bill and Charlie have been serving with the Auror Resistance Command while the rest of the family escaped to Switzerland.
James makes inroads to build a coalition amongst the countries of power in the wizarding world, separating from and replacing Albus Dumbledore on the international stage. Russia stands forth in alliance with, and a supporter of, the Voldemort controlled Britain. Their aggressive stance against the Ministry in Exile is led by their ambassador to the ICW, Sergei Ivanov. James begins to come into his own as the Foreign Minister as he forges alliances with Germany, China and, most especially, Spain.
The Queen, based on input from her grandson William, elevates Harry and Hermione to Knighthood after raising James to the Dukedom of Shrewsbury. From the Potter family, the Queen names her Champions to regain their homeland.
Harry, Hermione and Sirius undertake a successful rescue of Hermione's parents (and opportunistically her grandparents) despite the troubled nature of their relationship. Again, Harry is severely injured in an ambush at Hermione's grandparents' home. Susan Bones, Neville's girlfriend and a now close confident for Hermione, helps her understand Harry and his motivations that oftentimes result in his injuries. Hermione is able to move past her crippling fear for Harrys well-being so as to function again.
Dolores Umbridge arrives at the Ministry in Exile out of the blue long after the rest of the evacuees. Amelia Bones doubts Umbridge's sincerity causing her to question the toad-like woman under Veritaserum. While acknowledging her sympathy with the goals of Lord Voldemort, she isn't a spy. After having Arthur Weasley confine the former Undersecretary in a locked room, Amelia later finds that the odious woman was subsequently murdered.
Harry and Hermione reluctantly train with Albus Dumbledore, pushing themselves farther into battle magics than they'd envisioned. They adopt his maxim regarding the Dark Lord: Attack, press the attack and then push to the last reserve. At the height of their training, Hermione defeats the Headmaster in a duel.
After Umbridge's murder, Amelia systematically questions every member of the Ministry in Exile with Veritaserum to discover the murderer. Together, she and Hestia realize that Arthur Weasley is responsible for the murder. The Death Eaters have Percy Weasley captive and are using this as leverage over Arthur to gain intelligence information. Arthur murdered Umbridge in fear that she would intentionally or inadvertently disclose his status as a suborned servant. Without other personnel recourse, Amelia demands he swear an Unbreakable Vow to never betray the Ministry. The Queen is less than pleased at the news, while Amelia has a very difficult time working with Arthur on a day-to-day basis.
As the Steward for the house of Shrewsbury, Remus finds out that the family properties and possessions are being systematically attacked. Remus and James, with Lily, deduce that the illusive Dormred ap Morag is responsible. After a moral debate, the Potters decide that they must deal with Dormred before he injures or kills anyone. Due to James' political responsibilities and Lily's advancing pregnancy, Harry leads the team to kill Dormred and his compatriots before this new opponent blossoms into a full-fledged Dark Lord. Not liking the necessity of the action, Harry still agrees to lead a team consisting of Hermione, Neville, Susan, Sirius, Alex and Remus back to Wales.
During the planning for the mission, Hermione and her parents have a series of misfired attempts at reconciliation, leaving the Smartest Witch of the Age further cemented in the Potter Family. In a surprising movement of self-awareness, the elder Grangers opt to move out of La Retirada to give everyone a chance to cool off before irreparable harm is done to their relationship.
After infiltrating the country separately, the now dubbed Lion's Pride established a base camp in Wales from which they begin their search for Dormred. Meanwhile, Lily bonds the very grateful house elf Winky to the house of Shrewsbury to assist their long-time elf Rauri in the maintenance and running of the household now that Lily is nearing her due date.
Harry and Hermione are frustrated in their locating efforts while Neville and Susan are more productive in rehabilitating the damaged fields and homesteads of the Potter properties. In their frustration, Harry and Hermione Apparate to Diagon Alley to strike out at the Dark Lord and in the process, capture Bellatrix Lestrange after a hard-fought encounter after which Harry presents the mad witch's wand to Neville as a gift to the house of Longbottom for harms done.
Back in Spain, William researches the ICW charter comparing it to that of the United Nations. The unsatisfactory treatment accorded to magical beings and beasts awakens in the young Prince a thirst to work towards equality for all. In his research, he sees that by appealing to the downtrodden and disadvantaged among magical Britain, he might be able to cultivate allies. William shifts his focus to werewolves; determined to succeed in not only allying with them, but also freeing them from the legislated bigotry of the previous Wizengamot dominated Ministry of Magic.
Susan insists on being part of the next operation to strike at the Death Eaters. Her parents were killed by Death Eaters and her thirst for vengeance is strong. Shortly thereafter, Dormred's headquarters is located by Harry. As the team launches their covert assault on the compound, Lily goes into labour attended by James and the devoted Winky. Alex uses a Portkey in order to travel to Spain, attending the delivery of the second Potter son; Robert Justin Potter.
Concurrently, the assault on Dormred ap Morag's headquarters goes horrifically off the rails. When closing the compound, Harry, Hermione and Remus witness its inadvertent devastation followed by the stumbling and coughing sole survivor, the self-styled Dormred ap Morag, falling at their feet. A fanatic to the last, Dormred commits suicide rather than submit to a peaceful resolution of the longstanding feud. By his death, the wards about the property begin to implode, nearly killing the entire team. Beat up, but essentially unhurt, they return to Spain for rest and reunion with the newly grown family. Remus and Alex are named godparents for little 'Robbie', sparking maternal and paternal instincts in the lovers.
James has been making headway in gathering allies amongst the ICW member states. Russia's ambassador, Ivanov, decides it's time for a more personal discussion so he summons James to a quasi-clandestine meeting in a coffee shop. Accompanied by a wary Remus, Harry and Sirius, James receives Ivanov's unsubtle threats with sarcastic laughter and a threat of his own should the Russian attempt to fulfil his threats of physical violence against the Potter family.
Bill and Charlie Weasley are reassigned to Spain and the Lion's Pride as the team re-orients toward the Voldemort threat; Harry is placed in command of the team. Bill is temporarily separated from his new lover, Fleur Delacour, before she, too, joins the strike team that is bolstered by intelligence from the maturing Resistance Auror Command. For the short time in Spain, they notice that not all is well with their father, but can pinpoint no cause aside from Percy's longstanding disappearance.
Sirius and Hestia wed in an impromptu wedding ceremony. During their separation, it brought home to each how vital they were to each other so they moved ahead with the ceremony. This gave Harry the idea to formalize his proposal to Hermione. After a visit to Hong Kong and the relocated Potter Vaults, Harry proposed to Hermione over dinner in Paris.
Dumbledore receives notice from McGonagall, who is still in the locked-down Hogwarts, that Voldemort's forces have seeded the Forbidden Forest with numerous 4X and 5X creatures. He departs from the Ministry-in-Exile to deal with the problem as he (and Amelia) believe that this isolation of the school is an attempt to stage a non-human army in the north of Britain that can be mobilised by Voldemort at need. His efforts bear fruit, but at a cost as the old wizard is severely injured after setting a graphorn amongst giants. In order to protect his beloved Hogwarts, he decides to forgo his previously unsuccessful pacifist ways. He places a ward in the surrounding environs of the castle which causes the Dark Mark to explode, taking the offending Wizard or Witch's arm with it.
Act III: War and Hope
The Lion's Pride goes on the offensive in Voldemort controlled Britain. Their plan is to attack and destroy as many Death Eater strongholds as possible, killing as many of Voldemort's higher ranking Death Eaters in a widespread manner, thereby driving the Dark Lord to one of his primary 'residences'. Interrogation of the captured Bellatrix Lestrange identifies these two locations as Balmoral Castle and Buckingham Palace. Their goal is to make Voldemort feel personally threatened; mistakes are made when one is afraid.
Magical Russia continues to act as the political cat's paw for Voldemort in standing in opposition to the Ministry in Exile on the international front. Germany and Spain remain staunch allies, but the Russian opposition peels away the former ally that was Greece through economic and political pressure. In a surprising revelation, the Magical Empire of the Great China stands forth as an ally to the Ministry in Exile.
William has developed a passion for werewolf rights. Meeting Remus and hearing his stories has appalled the young Crown Prince. His research in comparing the charter of the ICW to the United Nations and been unimpressed with the declaration of rights by the magical community. He is firmly convinced that they can sway the underprivileged (werewolves, magical creatures such as vampires and the like) to stay neutral or possibly support the cause of the rightful government while addressing their horrendous treatment at the same time. Their first efforts are mixed when they approach the Cotswolds Pack. The group of weres and their families are receptive to the Prince's message, but unwilling to join. They do agree to stay neutral though. Of note, William meets the younger sister of the Pack's leader; a young woman named Kate Middleton with whom he becomes enamoured.
The resistance to the Voldemort Regime is not all coordinated. Oliver Wood, his lover Angelina Johnson and the remaining lovers Katie Bell and Alicia Spinnet form a resistance group. They know that they can't foment an overthrow on their own. It doesn't matter; they fight for revenge, not justice. All have lost beloved family members to the Death Eaters, so they kill as many as they can. On one of their operations, they capture, Marcus Flint, for interrogation.
Lily has a very hard time dealing with Harry's absence and deep involvement in the war effort. James does his best to support her, but her growing desperation to have her firstborn home grows alongside her secondborn, the toddler Robert Justin Potter.
While the Weasley family slowly falls apart due to the strains of Percy's loss, Arthur's unspoken tension due to his treason, the twins' resentment and anger at their personal losses in the war and Molly's devastation at the threats to her family, Arthur attempts to redeem himself through tireless dedication to the advancing the Ministry in Exile's cause and efforts. It causes the Minister and Deputy Minister (Amelia and Hestia) much conflict and confusion.
Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland and Czechoslovakia move to ally themselves with the bold Russia. Ambassador Ivanov declares, "…[we shall] stand firm against aggression against the rightful government of the United Kingdom. We shall be the Iron Fist of Freedom against those who would supress and oppress those weaker than themselves." This new alliance causes alarm throughout western Europe, causing the magical ministries to reconsider their previous lukewarm support of the British Ministry in Exile. The entire Russian move seems a prelude to World War.
The Lion's Pride moves to its next target: Roundhay House in Leeds. This is a Death Eater stronghold in the north of England supporting not only Death Eater operations, but also the Yorkshire werewolf pack which is much more hostile than the Cotswolds pack. As a bonus, the Lestrange brothers have taken up residence there. Unfortunately, there is a Manticore also in residence. The strength of the defences at the facility drives the Lion's Pride to collaborate with the northern Auror Resistance led by Alastor Moody, Emmeline Vance and the newly promoted Cedric Diggory. After a coordination meeting a multipronged attack is agreed upon with Auror Teams 3 and 4 supporting the Pride.
Through Snape, Dumbledore learns that the Dark Lord is actively seeking to kill James Potter as he's seen as a direct threat to the Dark Lord on the international front. Peter Pettigrew is the Dark Lord's choice as assassin. James is blindsided by the intensity of his fury toward the man whom he once loved as a brother who is betraying him for a second time.
Before departing Spain, James gifted Harry the Sword of Gryffindor. As the heir to the legacy of the famous wizard, James felt that his own heir needed the sword not only as a weapon but also as a talisman. Hermione discovers a spell that focuses Harry's magic into a specific skill – sword fighting in this case. However, it prevents Harry from casting spells as his magic is forced into the skill. With Charlie and Fleur supporting Harry, he will use the famous sword in this battle, while the rest of the group presses on to the house.
Oliver and Katie, using information tortured from Marcus Flint, infiltrate Roundhay House in an attempt to capture a high ranking Death Eater so as to not only enact another measure of revenge, but to also further their knowledge of the opposition. Unknowingly, they choose the same night as the Pride to conduct their operation.
After a furious fight, Harry kills the Manticore while the Pride and Auror teams successfully assault the Death Eater contingent. In a moment of unplanned hilarity, Oliver and Katie run into Hermione after successfully incapacitating both Lucius Malfoy and Rudolphus Lestrange. Oliver and Katie egress with the Pride, eventually their entire group joins the Auror Teams (after a rocky start).
Due to their high operational tempo, the Pride returns to Spain for R&R before fatigue takes a fatal toll. The Potter family reunion is joyous, Hestia is nearly hysterical to have Sirius home. Bill, Charlie and Fleur find the Weasley family disintegrating. Molly is nearly over the edge with her fear for the lost Percy while having Bill and Charlie directly involved in the war. Amelia comes to terms with the fact that Susan is her own woman and has decided to be a soldier. Hermione finally has the reunion with her parents for which she'd longed. It's the beginning of rapprochement among the Grangers of which Harry is accepted as a full member.
In a moment of vulnerable love and fear, Remus and Alex confirm their utter dedication to each other. In a simple manner, befitting the simple man that he is, Remus proposes and Alex accepts. Upon returning to Spain, they wed in a modest ceremony, surrounded by their family.
Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the Ministry in Exile ally with China as the opposition to the Iron Fist for Freedom. The Germans arrange a summit of the western leaders while ominous activity indicate that the 'Iron Fist for Freedom' countries may be preparing for war on a line from northern Europe on the Baltic all the way to the Mediterranean and Greece.
Working late in preparation for the summit, James captures Peter who is making a half-hearted attempt to carry out his assassination mission. After an emotional confrontation from all the family whom he so bitterly betrayed, they condemn him in their hearts before James turns Peter over to the Aurors.
In an intelligence gathering mission in Birmingham, Angelina and Alicia strike paydirt of a different sort: the find the incoherent Percy Weasley stumbling down the street.
The Germans take the lead at the summit, rallying the attending states to the cause of freedom and opposition to tyranny.
The return of Percy to the Weasley family begins their healing. Fleur discloses to Molly the cause of her facial scarring; during a rape by a Death Eater. The lover of Bill Weasley tries, and succeeds, to inspire Molly that Percy can overcome his torture at the hands of the Death Eaters with the support of his family; just as Fleur has begun her own healing with the love of a good man and her newfound family in the Pride.
The interrogation of Lucius Malfoy shows that the Pride's plan of instilling fear in the Dark Lord is successful with the unintended side effect of demoralizing the rank and file Death Eaters. During the debrief, Harry and Hermione discover that Bellatrix had been executed months before. Not finding any hard intelligence as to where Voldemort is hiding up (either Balmoral or Buckingham), Harry and Hermione take matters into their own hands by performing a quick Apparition to London to take the Buckingham Palace tour but are denied entry to Balmoral. The family is annoyed at the young couple's risk taking, but Auror command uses the intelligence in planning a meeting engagement at Balmoral Castle. Even a rudimentary analysis shows that the Ministry in Exile lacks sufficient force to successfully assault the Voldemort fortified Royal Residence.
The need for battlefield allies draws a predicament on the international front. Should the Ministry in Exile turn to their newfound allies alongside their traditional allies (China and the USA respectively), it is fully expected that Russia and the Iron Fist countries would invade Western Europe immediately. As such, James takes the lead in negotiations with the Americans to shape their martial assistance to the Central European plain as opposed to the forests of Scotland.
William, inspired and emboldened by his acceptance into the greater Potter family has taken up the cause of the werewolves of Britain as his own. Gaining the emotional acceptance of the Queen, he then tackles the more difficult acceptance of Lily, James and the rest. Grudgingly, they agree to approach the Yorkshire pack prior to the assault on Balmoral.
The Russian Ambassador, Ivanov, makes a last ditch effort to intimidate Lily from the Potter family's international efforts. He is not only rejected, but Lily nearly loses control and kills the man. He retreats from the confrontation, but both are on notice: the gloves are off.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….
"How is he?" Fleur asked as she entered Percy's room at the hospital.
Molly looked up from her knitting to give the French Veela a wide smile. "Better. The healer says that his blood chemistry is stabilizing nicely. His heartbeat is strengthening and they were able to take him off the Ventilator spell this morning."
Fleur beamed as she placed a new flower arrangement in a crystal vase after Vanishing the old, wilted flowers. Regarding the new flowers, she adjusted them artistically before asking, "Did the Healer say anything else? Do they know what caused his condition?"
Molly's heart fell. Despite the twins' shenanigans, Percy was her most difficult child. True, he was very compliant as a boy, but his priorities conflicted so much with her own that he was mostly a puzzle to her. Nonetheless, Percy was her son. She'd throw herself in front of a Killing curse for her family and this one time burbling baby boy was now confined to a hospital bed. Her sense of helplessness was nearly debilitating. Molly was doing her best to follow Arthur's advice that she needed to focus on the positives of the situation. Percy was safe. He was healing. Then, she remembered the cause of his infirmity and the pain came rushing back.
In a trembling voice, she told the blonde witch, "T-they believe that he was force fed the Torture Potions in addition to…," the pain overwhelmed her. Tears dripped down Molly's face as she covered her mouth with her hand in a vain attempt to deny the truth. Her body began to shake in the agony that overtook her. Closing her eyes, trying to avoid the pain that her boy had to have undergone, she felt Fleur's arms wrap her in an embrace.
In her ear, she felt Fleur whisper, "In addition to the Cruciatus?"
Unable to speak, Molly nodded through her silent sobs.
To one who has no children, it's impossible to convey the situation that buried Molly Weasley. Words fail and metaphors are a pale imitation. For a childless person to say, "I understand," is a patent lie. They cannot understand. It is beyond their ken. At that moment, Molly Weasleys' heart felt as if it was being ripped from her chest in the most profound manner possible. She was consumed in agony. The word 'pain' was yet another pale imitation of what she felt nor was it nearly as encompassing of her experience.
Her love for her son began when she felt the life move inside her body, the life that she and her beloved had created. There were all the years of love and devotion to her children - to Percy among the others. The late nights worrying about this or that, the moments of intense love, the pride at watching him take the first stumbling steps, tying his shoes for the first time and the joyous exclamation, "I did it mummy!" all of that built a relationship between her and her child that could never be related. Their lives were entwined in such an intrinsic manner that it was beyond description; it could never be understood, merely experienced by another with their own child. The devotion to one's offspring, placing them first above all, loving with an intensity that is unlike any other…it transformed a woman into a mother, a man into a father.
Now, to find out that the beloved child had been cursed with the Cruciatus curse…in her mind's eye, she heard his screams of agony and it intensified the pain she felt for her baby – now young man. The young man for whom she would die for without thought. The young man for whom she would hurriedly soothe any hurt. The screams in her mind's eye were loud, indeed.
Time passed. Eventually, Molly swam up out of her misery, using the embrace by Fleur as a lifeline of sorts. Hearing returned and she heard Fleur humming a tune that was at once familiar but also foreign. Either way, it was comforting. Gently patting the Frenchwoman's arm, she nodded her thanks. After a hearty blow of her nose, Molly croaked, "Thank you."
She felt the kiss land on the top of her red hair that was becoming more and more streaked with grey. "It is of no account."
Molly sat there, heavily weighed down by the emotion of the moment until Fleur sat in the chair next to her. Without preamble, the other woman asked, "Do you know how I was scarred?" The gesture of her left hand was unneeded to indicate the marring of her left cheek. Molly had wondered, but been afraid to ask.
Fleur did not wait for a reply, but pressed onward. "After the end of the Tournament, you remember that things rapidly crumbled in Britain. Unfortunately, I chose to stay for what should have been the final awards ceremony so that I could be crowned as champion. Had I known then what I know now…," she trailed off in a wistful tone. Resuming the thread of her story, she sighed, "The rest of the students returned to France, while I stayed on with Madame Maxime. The night before the presentation was to occur; she and I went to dinner in Hogsmeade. It was her reward to me for my performance in the tournament."
Molly gasped. If her memory was right, that was a very bad night to be in Hogsmeade.
Absently, Fleur took Molly's hand in her own as she continued the story. "We'd just finished la salade at the Golden Cauldron when they came." Unconsciously, Molly nodded. Death Eaters had begun their subjugation of Britain that night and had started in Hogsmeade. Their majority in the Wizengamot only took Voldemort so far in his plans. "I didn't have a chance to stand from my chair before Madame Maxime was killed with a Killing curse. I was able to kill three before they disarmed and subdued me."
Fleur looked at their enjoined hands. Young and supple with middle aged tending to spots. In support, Molly laid her other hand overtop Fleur's, squeezing gently.
"I was raped before my Guilliame freed me from their grasp." Molly closed her eyes in horror. Despite the pride in her eldest boy's rescue of the woman at her side, she shuddered at the facts of the story. "The animal that was using me thought it would be amusing to drip acid on my cheek so that if I survived the evening, no one would ever want me again. Guilliame intervened before the animal had the opportunity to scar the right cheek."
"I hope he killed the bastard," Molly whispered.
With a sad smile, Fleur looked to her lover's mother for the first time as she told her, "Bill cut him in half."
Molly's face was now dry, her focus completely on the young woman at her side. In fact, she'd even turned in her chair so that her entire attention was on Fleur. Deep inside her, she realized that Fleur was telling the tragic story so as to distract Molly from the pain of her son's torture, but it didn't matter. Right then, she needed to take care of this incredibly strong and brave woman who overcame so much to be there at that moment.
With a hard expression, Fleur turned to Molly. "Bill loves me despite my maiming…despite what that animal did to me. He and I have had a hard time of it at times, but our love is the glue of our life. Percy, too, has this love with his family. All will be well in the end. If I can make it, he can make it."
Molly engulfed in a hug the woman who she knew in her heart would become her first daughter in law. "My dear, dear, girl. Thank you so much for so much."
Fleur smiled as she was embraced by the older woman. While the entire family was focused on Percy's recovery, she and Bill had been considering another aspect of the situation. Given his extreme incapacitation, there was no way that Percy had escaped his captors. Why, then, did his captors release him?
Laying a soft kiss on the top of Molly's head, Fleur couldn't think of a good reason and that scared her.
James wrapped the cloak over his shoulders before trudging to the veranda. Once again, it was late, so most of the residents of La Retirada were asleep. He'd smiled when leaving Lily and Robbie curled into each other in the master bedroom. His wife was wrecked, for it'd been a trying week.
"Dad," Harry called softly across the darkened room.
Turning, he saw his son regarding him with curiosity. "Where are you going?" his heir asked.
Deciding, he directed his son, "Get your cloak and come with me. You deserve to see this."
Baffled, Harry regarded his father for a moment before asking, "Hermione?"
Shaking his head, "No. Just you and me. I'd bring your mum too if she wasn't so knackered. C'mon, time's wasting." Two minutes later, the eldest male Potters were on the veranda. "Hold tight," James advised before side along Apparating his son to their destination.
As they arrived at the ministry, Harry asked, "Dad, what's going on?"
He regarded his son for a long moment, hoping that he was doing the right thing. "Peter Pettigrew is being executed tonight."
The emotions that James had been supressing the entire day burst to the fore. When Amelia had offhandedly offered to allow him to be present for the execution, James had been immersed in his full fury against the traitor. In order to get through the day, he ignored his feelings. Now, instead of fury, he was swamped in sadness and regret for what could have been.
Looking at his son's face, there was no regret. When they'd confronted Pettigrew a few short weeks before, Harry had been emotionally broken and wounded. His past with the fucking Dursleys had hit him full on. Now, though, his fury was evident.
"Good," Harry observed. "Which way?"
Nodding at his son's acceptance, a small part of James' heart broke as he realized that Harry had lost all his innocence. Death held no mysteries or horror for him. As a witness to and dealer of death, Harry Potter was an old acquaintance with the grim reaper. Turning away, James led the way to the room that Amelia had indicated when she told him of the execution earlier that day.
Down the hall. Around a corner. Down the stairs. Another hall.
Emotion swirled. He was neither sad nor angry. I just want this over. Pettigrew had been a constant thorn in his psyche since his and Lily's return to the time stream. Sometimes omnipresent, other times a background noise, Peter Pettigrew had been a painful topic for the past few years. Reaching the door, he took a deep breath before reaching for the knob.
With a seemingly inconsequential twist, he and Harry were in the room. James almost laughed; it was empty.
Glancing at his watch, he told Harry, "We're a bit early. Be about five more minutes."
Harry nodded before deftly conjuring two comfortable chairs. James forced a smile before nodding his thanks to his son. The entire situation was nearly unbearable. Uncomfortable despite the chairs, he fidgeted.
"You alright, Dad?" Harry asked.
"No." What else could he say?
Before Harry could say anything in response, the door opened, admitting three red-robed Aurors that James didn't recognize followed by a shackled Pettigrew and Amelia Bones. The petite redhead's eyes flicked from James to Harry and back, her unspoken question in her gaze.
Standing before Harry dispelled the chairs, James told her, "He's a right to be here."
Giving a gentle shrug, she evidently let it pass. "Auror Williamson, do your duty," the Minister commanded.
James focused on his former friend. He'd expected Peter to be frantic or snivelling or some other emotional reaction. Instead, his one-time friend seemed to be resigned to his fate. He didn't look about or plead with anyone.
"Peter Pettigrew," the Auror read from a scroll, "You have been tried and convicted of two counts of treason against the Crown and thirteen counts of murder. Your sentence was pronounced as death by execution. Appeal directly to Her Majesty has been carried out, but clemency has been denied. Do you have any final words?"
There was a long pause before Pettigrew lifted his head. Looking first Harry then James in the eye, Wormtail said, "I'm sorry."
Without premeditation, James replied, "I forgive you. Be at peace."
Teary eyed, Peter nodded. "Thanks, Prongs."
Withdrawing a vial, the Auror commanded, "Open your mouth." Apparently, Pettigrew had chosen poison as his method of execution. A quick tilt of the container, a spasm from the condemned and it was over.
"May God have mercy on your soul," Harry muttered.
Too emotional for words, James placed his hand on his son's shoulder in solidarity with the words. Muttering, "Let's go," he left the Aurors to bury Pettigrew's body.
"Good night, Amelia."
"Good night, James, Harry."
"Good night, ma'am."
It seemed to happen fast, but they were back home on the veranda, looking down on the inky black sea. "Why?" Harry asked.
Not understanding the question, he merely looked at Harry with furrowed eyebrows. Illuminated in the bright light of the waning moon, Harry had an expression that confused. "You said that he'd die unmourned and alone, yet not only did we witness the execution, but you forgave him. Mum says that you never forgive anyone. Why start with him?"
Looking away, back to the night time sea, James considered for a long moment. "He was my friend. My very good friend and that just doesn't go away. If Neville turned on you and became a Death Eater, would you still have a sliver of fondness for him in your heart even if you had to kill him?"
Harry paused before replying, "I'd like to think so."
"I also did it for myself. I can't live with that hatred for him. It…," he trailed off as words failed him. "Hatred changes people. I saw that with what I felt for Dumbledore after what happened to you with Petunia and Vernon. I can't let a hatred for Peter destroy me." Meeting his son's green eyed gaze that was so similar yet different from his wife's, he added, "Hatred isn't worth the cost."
They were quiet as the surf softly crashed in the background. Silently scouring, it was the perpetual renewal of the world and seemed to be the renewal of James and Harry. They were finally able to move past the betrayal and pain of that Halloween night so long ago. There was so much pain, so much loss and so many casualties from that night. Peter was now the latest casualty of that night of betrayal and murder. Soon, it would be over.
Soon, it would be time to move on.
Albus Apparated to the clearing ten minutes before the appointed time. His efforts in clearing the Forbidden Forest had born fruit. He'd extinguished the Acromantula colony (with more than a little help from the Centaur herd), The Class Five and Four creatures that Voldemort had seeded throughout the Forest as a deterrent were nearly wiped out. Six giants, a tribe of trolls, two chimeras, a flock of harpies, a clutch of cold drakes, three graphorns and a school of lethifolds had been the bulk of the creatures he'd been forced to destroy. A smattering of red caps had been more bothersome than a hazard, but he didn't want them to infest the Forest, becoming a dangerous threat to students at a later date.
Conjuring a squishy chair in the shade of a tree, Albus sat heavily. He was tired; immeasurably tired. "One hundred and fifty-eight, forsooth," he mumbled to himself.
A soft pop heralded the arrival of his appointment. As he felt the man's passive magic flood his senses, Albus frowned. While he'd always had a hint of dark magic about him, the man now stunk of tenebris magicae. Rising, he greeted the man, "Good afternoon, Severus."
"Headmaster," the Death Eater replied.
Blinking, Albus tried to contain his reaction. "Are you well?"
The now cadaverous man nodded in a clipped fashion. "As best as can be expected."
"You have lost weight," the old mage observed casually. It was a criminal understatement. The dark circles under Snape's eyes were so pronounced as to give the impression that the man's eyes had expanded in size. Even more deplorable to Albus was the faint redness that flooded Severus' eyes. It was the redness that was the hallmark of dark magic users. Snape's cheekbones jutted from his face while his always prominent nose appeared a blade stabbing forward from his skull. There were many things that could cause such emaciation and hollowness to a wizard. Combined with the changes to his magic it narrowed down the causes to a single causality. Extensive use of dark magic.
"I do not have time for trivialities." Dumbledore nodded acquiescence to Snape's urgency. "The Dark Lord is afraid. He no longer travels his land," the last was sneered by Snape as if he were addressing a fourth year Gryffindor. "He fortifies Balmoral Castle extensively. I am unable to speak of the protections to the castle except that they are extensive." Shaking his head as he gathered his black cloak about him, Snape grunted, "I know no more."
Albus nodded genially, "Thank you, Severus."
They regarded each other for a long moment. Finally, Albus spoke, giving the younger man permission to voice what was so painfully obvious on his face. "Of course, you must choose your path."
Nodding curtly again, Snape replied, "I doubt we'll be able to meet again before the end. I am required to be at his side."
Sighing for the choice, Albus replied, "I wish that it were different."
His eyes cold and glittering, Snape replied, "I wish for many things. A different father, a…better selection of words."
There was nothing else to be said, except, "Goodbye, Severus." The unintentional finality in the adieu was sobering for both parties.
"Goodbye, Headmaster." For once in all his interactions with Severus Snape, Albus noticed the hint of affection in the other wizard's tone. It was small, but there, nonetheless. With a half twist, Snape Disapparated.
A moment later, the clearing was empty as Albus was on his way to Spain. There was news to impart.
Harry rolled over, throwing his arm across Hermione's chest. She was dead asleep; for that was the only time she slept on her back. Most nights, she curled up on her left side as she drifted off. Sometimes, Harry would curl up behind her, but many times he was sprawled on his stomach. When Hermione was exhausted, she would end up on her back, tiny snores rattling the back of her throat every so often.
A slight scowl tugged at the corner of Harry's mouth as he woke to the insistent prodding of his bladder. He tried to negotiate with himself: Let me sleep another hour or two and I promise to hop right out of bed and sprint to the toilet.
His bladder adopted a non-negotiating position that resulted in Harry rolling away from his beloved before padding across the bedroom to the en suite bathroom. Five minutes later, he returned to bed feeling significantly better.
"Alright?" Hermione murmured as he snuggled back in bed.
"Loo," he replied.
"Hmmm," she hummed as she rolled toward him, unconsciously mirroring his pose which started the evolution. Now wide awake, Harry curled his arm about her shoulders as he considered the previous few days.
His parents were in the middle of the firestorm that threatened to engulf all of Europe. James had been in Zurich since returning from America. His mum had been bouncing back and forth from Zurich to home every six hours or so in order to feed Robbie while still trying to ride the tiger that had roared into Europe over the past few days.
Hestia, with Sirius at her side as her self-appointed bodyguard, had only left Zurich for a change of clothes or to return to the Ministry. Remus and Alex were working with William on his plan to neutralize the Yorkshire werewolf pack while being the 'home guard' at La Retirada. Susan and Neville were in Zurich, staying with Amelia Bones. Harry mused, If Amelia is even there. The Minister was probably as consumed by the firestorm as James, Lily and Hestia.
In his arms, Hermione tensed before she rolled away with a pronounced, "Harrumph."
Watching her nude form heading to the bathroom, he smiled as he asked, "Gotta pee?"
"And it's your entire fault," she replied without a beat. "I was perfectly asleep before you woke me."
The door for the bathroom closed with a snap as Harry called out, "Sorry!" The wide smile on his face paid lie to his contrition.
Two minutes later, his fiancée returned to the bed. As she snuggled up to him, he murmured, "Have you noticed that everyone else is busy but we've nothing going on?"
"We deserve it," she replied sleepily. "You realize we should be sixth years right now? We've been sprinting through our days for nearly three years without a break." She settled before observing, "The Caribbean was our last vacation. That was in fourth year."
Blinking at the thought, he replied, "I feel like I should be doing something right now."
"Isn't that my line?" she observed with sleepy cheek.
Smiling, he held her close before a wayward thought chilled him. "This assault on Balmoral is going to be bad."
She stilled in his arms. "Yes, it will."
"I can't lose you."
The bald statement brought them both up short. It was the unequivocal truth. "Nor can I lose you," she whispered in return while her arms tightened about his chest. Her comment about their vacation to the Caribbean reminded him. The words came back to him. They'd been his motivation and inspiration for years now.
Scaling mountains and swimming seas, for her I will walk.
Love washed over him. Love for her. She'd been his best friend as a boy. Now his lover and best friend, there was nothing without her. He'd do anything to be at her side. Nothing could separate them for long.
Through fire, for her I will walk.
Pain was an old friend. The Dursleys had forced the acquaintance upon him and the Dark Lord had continued the familiarity. Pain was nothing. Pain was no deterrent to him being with her.
Battling darkness, for her I will walk.
To protect her, to save her, to make her and their family safe, he'd grapple with that which he feared. Fear was an amorphous thing, but in his life it'd been made solid in the form of a Basilisk, a Dementor, a Manticore, a Dragon…and a Dark Lord. He'd draw the sword of his fathers to slay that which threatened her and their love.
To Kill a Dark Lord, for her I will walk
Unchecked, Voldemort would destroy all that Harry held dear; all that he loved. His parents, his family, his love would all fall as wheat before the reaper. Never.
"We need more information about the castle," she observed, breaking him from his reverie.
Blinking he nodded, "Billy and her Majesty helped with the layout, but that's not what we need."
"We need to know their defences," she agreed.
Frustrated, he observed, "If Pettigrew could find Dad in the Ministry, we should be able gather enough information about what they've done to the castle and grounds."
Hermione stilled. Recognizing that she was deep in thought he didn't interrupt her. "You, my dear," she began, "are a genius. That's how we'll get someone in."
Completely baffled, Harry watched his lover jump from the bed as she headed to the closet. "Apparently, we've something to do now."
"Johann, is this going to be a problem?" James asked.
The German Ambassador glanced about for a second before motioning to the terrace outside the conference room. After closing the door, the tall wizard born in the slums of Berlin replied, "Do you want the public or personal reply?"
James sighed. For the past few days, they'd been working day and night to put an international alliance into place. What had begun as a loose confederation of those opposed to the Dark Lord in Britain and the opportunistic aggression from the Russian led coalition dubbed the 'Iron Fist for Freedom', had evolved into a semi-permanent alliance of magical nation states that paralleled the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the mundane world.
James, Lily, Amelia and Hestia had been sprinting from one meeting to the next. Amelia had distributed authority among her Deputy and Ministers in a manner never before seen. Necessity was driving them to extreme action. Time was against them and there was far too much work to be done: negotiations regarding troop access, military coordination regarding supreme command of international forces, parliamentary manoeuvres to expedite implementation prior to ratification as time was of the essence, logistic coordination, initiating discussions that would lead ICW approval for military action not only in the UK, but also in Central Europe should the worst come to pass. It was far from a simple task.
James had just finished a meeting with the Germans, Americans, Austrians and British representatives to finalize the deployment of American and Austrian forces to the central Germanic plains near Frankfurt. It wasn't as easy as hopping through a portal and fighting the good fight. Food, quarters, and supplies were just the beginning of the discussion. There was much discussion regarding the coordination of maintenance of the Statute of Secrecy and the German command and control therein.
In short, each item discussed and clarified or negotiated was necessary and important but it was exhausting. James was the lead for the negotiations with the allies for the German issues. Amelia was hammering out the renewable treaty language while Lily and Hestia took on the coordination of the retaking of their homeland. Normally, these efforts would have required nearly one hundred witches and wizards working in near symphonic coordination. Unfortunately, they only had four with administrative support at the Ministry in Exile. It made for very long nights.
Germany, Spain and China had been the strongest supporters of the Ministry in Exile, but only Germany had the war coming home to them. James felt a bit guilty that Germany was finding itself in the middle of the whirlwind that was not of their own making.
"Germany cannot allow Russo-British hegemony, James," Johann replied to the question, interrupting James' thoughts. Surprise must have been evident on James' face, for the German Ambassador clarified, "Russo-Voldemort Britain." Grinning, he said, "Whoever is in control of the country, my friend, it is still Britain."
Grunting, James looked away, "Not for long."
"With the full moon just now waning, now is the perfect time to go."
Remus frowned as his eyes flitted to his wife to gauge her thoughts. A sudden smile blossomed for a moment as he savoured the thought. His wife. Alex caught his expression, smiling toothily back at him. Refocussing on William's assertion, he considered. "Don't you feel like it's premature? I'm not too confident in this plan."
"There's considerable risk," Alex observed.
William was silent for a long moment before asking, "What other risk mitigation actions can we take?" It was more a challenge than a question, which Remus knew full well.
The werewolf sighed. "None. We've considered and done all we can do."
"It's too risky, William. The cost could be high," her face grim, she added, "Very high."
"There's a twofold benefit of splintering the Yorkshire werewolf pack and we all know it. Foremost, those werewolves and their kin who are peaceable ought to be able to live free from the terror that is the legacy of Fenrir Greyback's rule. We've already established alternate arrangements for them."
Taking a long draught of tea, William continued, "The other reason is more practical. When the assault at Balmoral takes place, we want the Yorkshire pack to be ineffectual in that battle - or at least as ineffectual as possible."
Waving his hand vaguely, Remus asked, "And the team?"
"Small," William replied eagerly as he handed over a list. "You and Alex for obvious reasons," he nodded to the blonde healer at the table with them. "Harry and Sirius along with Hermione. James if he can be spared."
"The rock stars of the magical world," Alex observed.
"Who can also fight like badgers in a trap," William replied evenly.
"And the Queen?" Remus countered with a last gasp objection.
With a wisp of smile, for it was evident that he'd won them over, William answered, "She's known for months and gave her approval before we went to Wales."
Nodding, Remus glanced at Alex who in turn sighed heavily. "I don't like it," she observed, "but I'll go."
Remus nodded in resignation as well. "Two days. I'll see if James can break away, but the others should be ready."
"Do you guys realize that we haven't pranked anyone in months?"
Unseen in the doorway, Lily froze as she watched Sirius sigh at the realization. After he handed another beer to Moony, Padfoot plopped down on the couch next to Prongs. James was sprawled on the long couch, his head tilted back on the headrest. His glasses on the table, he was dishevelled and evidently exhausted. "We've lost it. The Marauders are over the hill."
"Never," whispered James as he put the cold bottle of beer on his forehead. Lily supressed a snigger. Her husband could be such a drama queen sometimes.
"I say we prank someone," Padfoot offered.
"Who?" James replied. "Lily? Only if I'm ready for the afterlife." Said witch's eyes narrowed at first before her lips curled into a smile. James turned to Remus, "Alex?"
Moony's wide eyed disbelief mirrored his words. "Are you insane?"
Turning to Padfoot, Prongs asked, "Hestia?" to which there was a definitive head shake in the negative. "Harry and Hermione would transfigure us into something horrid. I've no doubt that Amelia would arrange for a violent response, Arthur is no fun, Snivellus is back home…we've no targets for our considerable wit."
"Oh thank goodness," Padfoot exclaimed as he sat back, relief exploding across his features.
"What?" Moony asked before taking a long pull on his beer.
"We've no targets that we're not having sex with or of whom we're terribly afraid. I'm not ready to get cut off any time soon," Lily rolled her eyes in silent annoyance, "or be physically maimed. We're not losing our edge."
"Then again," James murmured.
"We could…I've got an idea."
Disturbed, Lily fled the doorway. She'd heard that tone from her husband many times through the years and she'd no desire to revisit any of those events. Hurriedly, she moved to the great room where she knew Hestia, Alex, Harry and Hermione where playing bridge. She'd need support if the Marauders were on the warpath.
"Is she gone?" Prongs asked. Truth be told, he was fairly shattered. It was nearly two in the morning but it was the only time that he could find to have a drink with his brothers.
The half-asleep Padfoot sniggered as he twisted on the couch. "Yeah."
Remus smiled. "She's going to be worrying about this for weeks. She'll probably rope Alex and Hestia into it, too. We don't have to do anything, and they'll all be worrying about something that's not coming."
"Pranks aren't just pink hair and farting," James opined as he toasted his brothers in prank.
"But the farting pranks are still pretty funny," Padfoot countered with a gravity amusing unto itself.
"Mischief managed," Remus announced as he touched the neck of his beer bottle to first James' then Sirius'.
Emmeline had called her team leaders for an emergency meeting. That wasn't unusual. The fact that it was two in the morning was unusual. As the intelligence team leader, Oliver trekked after the front line team leaders. There were times when the former Quidditch keeper felt a bit lost at sea amongst the professional soldiers and Aurors that led the British Magical Strike Force (North). That feeling usually fled when he would pre-brief one of their intelligence gathering missions and he saw the other leaders' respectful attention to his words.
"What's the op?" he asked Cedric Diggory. He and Cedric had grown up together in Devonshire. With Percy Weasley the only other wizard their age within walking distance, the two young boys had gravitated together.
Shrugging, the former Hufflepuff head boy shook his head. "Dunno. Must be important, though. Emmeline hasn't ever called us together in the middle of the night."
With nothing left to say, they settled in the conference room. As the two youngest team leads, they were always left standing while their seniors took the available chairs. Neither would give the older soldiers the satisfaction of them conjuring a chair.
The gorgeous Emmeline Vance strode in the room looking as fresh as a daisy. Without preamble, she asked, "Who amongst all the teams is an animagus? I need to know within ten minutes. Go."
Oliver departed the room much faster than he entered, the scraping of chairs rustling behind him.
"Alliance for the Light?" James mocked. "Who is the genius that thought the name of this organization should be the 'Alliance for the Light'?"
Amelia sighed. She, too, thought the name utterly foolish. "The Italians. They're very much into symbolism. Their representative began to wax poetic about the alliance taking the place of an Angel from Heaven bearing the Flaming Sword of Justice that Michael wielded against Lucifer when the two Archangels battled. It is, apparently, our role was to ensure that the world had that opportunity…." Amelia began laughing at the disbelief etched on James' face. "Yeah, it sounded good when he said it. When I say it, the whole thing sounds ludicrous."
Sighing, he leaned back in his chair while Hestia murmured, "Beggars can't be choosy."
"True," James mumbled while rubbing his eyes. "Who cares what it's called. If we get their help, we can call it the House Elf Liberation Front for all I care."
Lily shuffled into the room. Amelia watched wistfully as James automatically rose to greet his wife. He wasn't overly demonstrative, but a questioning look and a soft caress of her shoulder was sufficient to convey his love and devotion to her. Amelia had never had a special someone whom she cared about in that manner nor who cared about her in the same way. She'd not felt the lack in her life, but watching James and Lily, she was watching something that came along once in a generation. They were the personification of True Love. All and sundry longed for True Love at some level.
"The ICW General Assembly will convene the day after tomorrow," Lily announced as she leaned on James' shoulder tiredly. "I've polled the Security Council about our new alliance; we'll not face any significant resistance."
"You polled the Russians?" Hestia teased while smirking.
"No," Lily replied, "I don't want to be arrested for murder of a lower life form, so Comrade Ivanov was left to his own devices."
The group chuckled as a soft knock on the doorframe caught their attention. Amelia was surprised to see Albus Dumbledore at her door. She'd not seen him in months. At irregular intervals, she'd receive updates as to his progress in the land surrounding Hogwarts and – more importantly – bits of intelligence gleaned from an unknown source. It was a source that had provided a very small gold mine of accurate data.
"Albus, come and sit down. You look exhausted."
The Headmaster of Hogwarts did look wretched, Amelia thought. It was evident that James and Lily didn't like Albus very much, but neither wasn't completely heartless. Albus' face was haggard and drawn. Bruises littered his left arm while a recently healed burn turned his right arm the shiny pink of newly healed flesh.
Hestia scuttled to the old man's side before helping him into a chair while Lily fetched the man a brandy. Amelia's concern grew when Albus let out a relieved sigh as he sank into the cushion that accompanied a grimace of obvious pain. "I shall be brief," the old man began.
The four other magic users in the room let out an involuntary snort of amusement which caused a fleeting sense of camaraderie.
Rolling his eyes, Dumbledore chuckled dryly. "Quite. I am newly returned from Britain. Lord Voldemort has definitely taken residence in Balmoral Castle and is holing up there." Sighing, he rubbed his face. "I know not what the defences are that he is erecting, but they will be formidable. My contact was unable to speak of them, but we were able to discuss the fact that they existed."
"Which rules out Fidelius and related charms," Lily observed.
Albus nodded his agreement. "Yes. Erecting the Fidelius on such a well-known home would be beyond the power requirements of Lord Voldemort." Wordlessly, he accepted the brandy from Amelia. "Hogwarts is no longer under siege. The Forbidden Forest is clear of all Four X and Five X creatures, save the Centaurs."
"Death Eaters?" James prompted.
The old warrior's face hardened for a long moment before he replied, "They have been encouraged to depart and I've left a few surprises to discourage their return."
"Really? Do tell," Lily drawled.
Albus smiled and Amelia saw no trace of the jovial old Headmaster she'd known for years. In his place was an old wolf that could still bite.
"The bulk of Death Eaters have something in common." He looked about for the answer, but when there was no interjection from the younger three, the old man supplied the answer. "The Dark Mark."
"But not all Death Eaters are marked," Amelia protested.
"True, but it is what I had to work with in my…extra defences of the castle."
"What'd you do?" James asked.
"It took quite some time and was extraordinarily tiring, but I created a ward that was triggered by the magical signature of the Dark Mark. As Lord Voldemort is the only wizard to brand his followers, all the Marks have the same signature."
"What happens when the ward triggers?" James pressed.
Dumbledore shrugged nonchalantly before sipping the brandy, "Their left arm will explode."
There was a long shocked silence as the foursome digested the old man's words. Finally, Amelia roused herself, "Well."
"Yes," Albus picked up the slack in the conversation and once again, the jovial old man had returned. "If you desire it, I will lower the balance of the wards at Hogwarts so that the castle may be used as a staging area for the final assault on Balmoral."
Shoving the considerations aside, Amelia turned to the still stunned James. "Have Arthur talk to Moody and the Chinese General…what's his name?"
"Li Mu Bai," James supplied.
"Right, talk to him to get the logistics moving.
James nodded as he rose. A salient point occurred to him which stopped him in his tracks. "What did you do to 'encourage the resident Death Eaters to depart'?"
The predatory look fell over Albus' features once again. "I killed them."
His eyes narrowing, James nodded. "Good."
"What's your form?" Cedric asked.
"I'm a robin," they young witch replied sleepily while pulling on her clothes. "What's this about?"
"Dunno," Cedric replied as he dragged her out of the barracks. "I'm sure we'll both find out soon enough."
"Do you have a date?" Harry asked as he read through the planning papers.
Hermione was reading a duplicated set of plans as she listened as Harry, Remus and William discussed the operation.
"Monday," William replied.
Surprised, Hermione looked up, her eyebrows arched. "Monday, as in three days from now Monday?" Harry asked.
Taken aback, all she could muster was, "Oh." A dozen objections rose to mind, but in an attempt to be fair to the Prince's schedule, she resumed reading the operation plan. She verbally began ticking off the critical points as she read.
"Insertion method…insert here…egress via portkey to Wales or Apparate to Hogsmeade?" At the mention of Hogsmeade, she looked up to Remus, the question plain on her face.
"Headmaster Dumbledore guarantees that Hogsmeade and the castle are free of Death Eaters." His neutral reply didn't inspire confidence in that pronouncement, but she took it at face value.
Harry's question to William broke her musings as she returned to the plan. "How are you getting out if we're separated?"
It was a valid and perceptive question that Hermione was very interested in the answer.
"I've two portkeys that are both manually activated. If those fail, I'm going to run like hell."
"Billy," she objected. "Two portkeys and running as an escape plan?"
His eyes narrowed as his face began to flush a bit. "Then you'll have to stay by my side, won't you?"
Taking up the challenge, Hermione merely nodded her acceptance and understanding. Great. She moaned to herself. I'm now responsible for the health and well-being of the Crown Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain whilst he traipses among a pack of probably hostile werewolves.
After five long minutes of silent reading, she set aside the operational plan. It was thorough, coherent and – most importantly – simple. Meeting her fiancé's gaze, she saw him shrug. Sighing, she nodded her concurrence. "We're in."
"Congratulations. You're now vital to the war effort. What's your name?"
"Evelyn Woods, ma'am," the dirty blonde witch replied. She was nervous, confused and more than a little scared. She'd been assigned to Cedric Diggory's team when she joined up with the resistance and had slowly felt that she was not only contributing, but belonged. Like many of the others, she had extremely personal reasons for joining the Strike Team. No matter what happened, she'd always remember her father's face as the Death Eaters cut him down. He died protecting her and her mother. None of it prepared her for the fight and the killing, but it gave her an excellent motivation.
"Did you take Arithmancy or Ancient Runes in school and what where your NEWT scores?"
Now she was even more confused. First Cedric dragged the entire team out of their beds to discuss animagi and now Emmeline Vance was grilling her about Arithmancy and Runes? The former Ravenclaw replied, "Both. I scored an Outstanding in Arithmancy and an Exceeds Expectations in Runes."
The wide grin that blossomed on the Strike Team commander's face was at once relieving and disturbing.
"Let's discuss ward detection and identification, shall we? By the by, have you ever been to Balmoral Castle?"
Completely confused by the shifting topics, Woods followed Vance into the other room while Diggory headed to the galley to cook a dish of tea for the planning team. He figured it would be a long night.
"Is everyone ready?"
Hermione bit back her smile. Billy was taking a very proprietary role on this mission. It was his idea and he felt responsible for it. Harry goosed her to get her attention. She half turned to catch his eye. He gave her an amused look to show that he, too, saw Billy's antics.
This was Sirius and the commonplace gravity in his tone and words brought her back to earth. Half nodding she began her weapons check. Wand, disillusioned pistol, disillusioned knife, portkey, potion pouch, secondary portkey. Adjusting the magical body armour she wore from her neck down, she gave Billy a nod. A moment later, he nodded to Sirius. "Let's go."
Grunting as the portkey dropped them in Wales, she scowled. Harry was flat on his back while Remus smiled amusedly at them both. "Not having fun, Hermione?"
"Not especially, Remus. Swirling through non-space from Spain to Wales is very low on my bucket list."
Remus and Sirius both laughed, but their smiles didn't reach their eyes. Billy checked his watch. This time, his voice seemed to command a bit more serious from her. His call, "Saddle up," brought her to attention and reaching for the rope portkey just as Harry, Alex and Remus did.
This nauseating, unpleasant trip was much shorter but still ghastly. That didn't matter, though. It was show time.
This time, Harry remembered to flex his knees on landing. As per plan, Hermione's wand was in her hand as she hastily cast the pre-planned spell. Her harsh whisper of "north," and point off to their left, have everyone an orientation. Remus led off the march to the pack's 'headquarters'. As this wasn't an insertion op, much less a search and destroy mission, they weren't sprinting in to the area, but there was a method to their formation.
Remus was up front. They needed him to give them legitimacy. On his shoulder was Alex. As his wife, she held a special place in werewolf hierarchy. Being a healer accentuated that status. Behind Alex, Harry took up position. He was their rock star paired with the Prince of Wales. Intelligence was spotty about the Yorkshire Werewolf pack, but they did know that the pack was a mix of infected wizards and muggles. Harry and William would give a bit of 'shock and awe' to the more neutral lycanthropes.
Hermione was behind William and would be there for the entire trip. She was his body guard, plain and simple. Her orders – from Amelia no less – were to ensure that William returned alive. No matter the cost to the rest of the team. Harry had noticed Hermione's eyes narrow at that order. He doubted that she'd leave him behind to evacuate William, but she'd insure that the Prince was safe before throwing herself into the fray.
Refocusing as they crested a treeless hill, Harry tugged on the zip of his coat. It was bloody cold here in Yorkshire. Full winter hadn't set in yet, but it was nearly bone chilling cold. In front of him, Remus and Alex stopped. They must've hit the first sentry line.
"You want me to covertly infiltrate You-Know-Who's headquarters at Balmoral Castle that's been warded from here to the Orkneys and back.
Slumping in her chair, Evelyn Woods rubbed eyes burning with fatigue. "Tonight?"
"Yes," Emmeline replied with matter-of-fact directness.
"Yes," Emmeline confirmed with a tone rounded off with sympathy. "I understand that it's sudden, but we don't have time to be buggering about here."
Nodding her head, she was reminded of her sense of purpose with Strike Team North. Evelyn stood, "Right. I'll review the intelligence we have on hand before catching up on some sleep."
"You'll leave at midnight for a three AM insertion. Bell will go with you," Emmeline nodded to the teenaged blonde lounging on the far side of the room.
Evelyn nodded to her new partner in greeting before asking, "Who do we see for the intel package?"
A faint smile graced the older woman's beautiful face in approval at Woods' attitude. "Follow me."
"Johnny, how are you, lad?" Remus greeted the werewolf sentry.
The young man peered at him through long lank hair before replying with a thick Irish accent, "Remus, is that you there? Bless me, it is." The young man eyed up Alex for a moment with an approving eye. Turning back to the approaching were, he asked, "Yours?"
Remus laughed softly, "More like I'm hers." Both men laughed before Johnny sobered.
"Remus, boyo, what're you doing here? Fenrir may be dead, but Vuk isn't much better. He'll not be happy to see ye…," he trailed off when he saw the two figures behind Alex. His expression was blank for a long moment before a low, rumbling chuckle began deep in the sentry's chest. It bloomed into a full throated barking laugh. "Harry Potter and Prince William? Oh, Remus. This will be good." Shaking his head while laughing, Johnny withdrew a two-way radio from his satchel. "Kevin, you there, lad?"
"Yeah," another Irish voice crackled from the speaker.
"Got some friends coming in."
"Right. I'll let the others know."
Johnny's laughter faded before regarding the troop with a serious expression. "That's the best I can do for ye. God, Mary and Patrick go with ye."
"Remus, what just happened?" Harry asked.
At the head of their line as it moved through the forest, Remus sighed. Pushing aside a branch, he said, "Johnny, Kevin and the like are at the bottom of the pack, so they get the worst jobs, the last of the food and clothes and whatnot. As a result, they're not very militant in their attitudes."
"Are they at the bottom because they're Irish?" Hermione piped into the conversation.
"And they were muggles when they were bitten," Remus added, while nodding his agreement. "They don't fit in either the mundane or magical worlds." He was silent for fifty yards or so as the only sound to be heard was the crunching of undergrowth by their boots. "Good people, all of them. I've known Johnny since he was bitten ten years ago. Kevin was bitten shortly thereafter. The two of them gravitated together, being Irish non-magicals when bitten. Kevin married Patricia, another Irish muggle werewolf."
Remus paused for a long moment before continuing, "Johnny's very smart. He was in a gifted school on the fast track for university when he was bitten." Half turning as he walked, Remus met Harry's gaze, "He knows why we're here…he knows roughly why we're here that is. It's the only reason I would bring you, William and Sirius as well as my wife to the pack. He knows that we're here to – at least – offer peace."
Harry's hopes started to rise. Johnny had been friendly and even welcoming. Perhaps this mission wasn't going to go too badly after all.
"Unfortunately, the bulk of the pack is comprised of very bitter magical werewolves. Many of them are purebloods who lost their position in society and wealth because of their contraction of lycanthropy. They were treated worse than squibs by their families."
Harry's hopes dropped. "Shit." It was a horrible situation that compounded their own problems in attempting to broker neutrality from the pack.
Without looking back, Remus nodded, "Yeah. 'Shit' is right."
"You ready?" Katie asked in a whisper to her temporary new partner. Not looking at Evelyn for a reply, she scanned the woods beyond the clearing where they were waiting for the three AM kickoff. While Evelyn's animagus form as a robin was perfectly suited for a quick, covert insertion, Katie's form as a weasel wasn't very suited to 'quick'. They'd both be able to cross the ward line (or so it was supposed) but while Evelyn would literally flit into the area, Katie would have to run like hell to keep up with her partner for the night.
Glancing at her watch, Katie whispered, "One minute."
It was the longest sixty seconds of her life.
Finally, the minute hand ticked to vertical. "Go."
Evelyn's form melted to a robin as Katie shrunk to all fours before sprinting ahead. They had fifteen minutes to get in, scan the ward schema from the inside before egressing to the evacuation point. Their portkey was waiting for them at said evacuation point to avoid compromising their destination should the two reconnaissance animagi become captured by the Death Eaters.
Katie was running as fast as she could manage, one eye on the shadow shrouded bird ahead of her. Before departing their headquarters, both witches had cast tracking charms on each other so that they could still find each other in the dark of the night. The just post-full moon was nearly set, but still provided some illumination that the witches cum animals used to navigate their way to their destination.
The first point was found easily thirty seconds into their excursion. Many anti-apparition and anti-portkey wards are anchored outside the structures they are protecting. It requires less effort and a simpler formula to erect the anti-travel wards in the open air. Katie wasn't the expert that Evelyn was, but the engraved runes on the wardstones appeared to be in a standard – yet effective – anti-travel configuration.
After a quick change back to her human form, Evelyn got to work. Not bothering with magical means to record the configuration lest the spellwork lead to their discovery, Evelyn unfolded a large piece of paper along with a charcoal rubbing stick as she began to make an impression of the rune set. She knew that her memory would be scrupulously reviewed when they returned to base, but on the chance that she didn't make it out this…adventure…the paper would be a recording for the Auror Command.
Risking discovery, she gave her wand a deft flick of her wand along with a twist animated the rubbing as a small bird (along with weatherproofing it) as it winged its way outside of the wards. In ten minutes, the Portkey spell would activate, sending the paper back to Mad Eye and Emmeline. Glancing down to the brown weasel at her side, Evelyn gave a quick nod before shifting back to a robin. They began the second part of their assignment.
They rounded a corner on the trail as the woods opened up to a large clearing. Harry could see a series of ramshackle huts that formed a ring around an inner set of houses. The inner ring, from what he could see, where in much better shape than the outer ring.
"Hierarchy?" he muttered aloud.
Remus nodded before murmuring loudly enough for all to hear, "Remember the plan."
Harry nodded, tense and alert. Staying focussed on Remus and Alex in front of him, he could hear the shuffling tread of William behind him. He couldn't hear her, but Hermione's magic was buzzing in her tense, alert state. Sirius, bringing up the rear, cleared his throat with deliberation.
Someone's behind us. Sirius clearing his throatwas to put the rest of the team on alert. Had it been an emergency, he'd have coughed aloud.
Flexing his empty hand, Harry tried to keep control. He really didn't like this.
A large, hair man wearing only cut off trousers, stood into the path.
"Crap," Remus spat.
"Vuk?" Alex asked.
"Here we go," Sirius commented off hand. A group of werewolves began to congregate about the newcomers. Young and old, well dressed and not, they all had an expression of guarded curiosity. A few youngsters waved discreetly to Remus, to which he gave a quick nod. Slowly but surely, the crowd was growing.
William strode up to the front of the group alongside Remus. The werewolf raised his hand, "Greetings, Vuk. I bring friends with offers of goodwill and in peace."
The bestial man grunted in annoyed disdain. "You have two minutes before I order you all torn limb from limb."
Harry frowned, but kept his peace. Now wasn't the time. Slowly, the Lion's Pride began to spread out in a loose semi-circle with Remus, William and Alex at the middle. Hermione was on William's side while Sirius and Harry flanked the rest.
Remus smiled toothily, his lycanthropy starkly evident in the expression. "Go fuck yourself, wolf. I will speak to the council, not you."
There was a shocked silence from all gathered, but Remus didn't stop his stride as he pushed past Vuk toward the centre of the ad hoc village. Harry's nerves were on fire, as this was the break point. If they could intimidate Vuk and push past him to the pack council, it would be easy sailing. If not, well, it wouldn't be so easy.
With a roar, Vuk swung his fist at Remus. Unfortunately for the large man, he wasn't Fenrir Greyback who could physically intimidate the pack and back it up. As such, when Remus caught the meaty fist in both hands, there was a comical moment when the brutish man merely blinked at Remus before a deft twist and throw had Vuk flat on his back, panting hard.
Harry smirked as he watched the watchers. Remus had been expecting this exact move, so his counter had been quite easy. Now, the key was the reaction of the crowd.
It took only a moment; they submitted. Harry could tell in the expressions of most. Many were giving satisfied nods of approval while the rest cowered at Remus' display of dominance. The remainder of the assembled lycanthropes had masks of neutrality. As the Lion's Pride resumed their line ahead with Remus taking point and Alex on his shoulder, Harry watched the latter group closely. No one made a move, either in favour or opposition. None of the Pride said another word as they walked the last dozen or so yards to the council hall at the middle of the village.
Balmoral Castle isn't a castle in the traditional sense. While there is a keep, with renaissance era turrets, it's much more in line with a magnificent hunting lodge. Either way, it was turning into a cast iron bitch for a robin and weasel to enter unnoticed. Due to magical temperature moderation, windows are rarely left open in magical homes, and Voldemort was sufficiently paranoid to have all doors spelled shut and locked with alarm charms on top of the lock.
Finally, they found a small cellar window that was half broken. Katie the weasel easily slithered into the opening, but Evelyn the robin had to make multiple approaches before she darted into the opening. Alighting on a large cask, she caught her breath while surveying the room. It appeared to be a dry goods storage room. The walls were lined with jars and cans while there were baskets and sacks filled with potatoes, turnips and the like. This was not the internal ward room. From the door, Katie chittered at her partner, abjuring her to 'get a bloody move on'. If she could've frowned, the robin would have. As it was, she winged over the door which Katie had worked open with her cunning paws.
The hallway was dimly lit from the stairway at the far end. Flitting doorway to doorway, Evelyn investigated the south end of the hallway, while Katie worked through the north end. Approaching her second room, Evelyn knew that she'd found the right area. Magic was pulsing and streaming from the room in swells and waves of power. It was a palpable pressure that was so present, that Evelyn was sure that she'd be able to taste the magic had she been in her human form. A quick bank to the left took her into a large room stripped of all accoutrement. In the centre of the stone floored space were six pillars of obsidian in a pentagonal shape, the sixth in the centre of the design. Looking closer, the young woman's heart sunk. Each pillar was microinscribed with thousands of runes. It was easily the most complex rune structure of which she'd ever heard.
Determined, she alit on the floor as she deliberately examined each section of all the pillars. Without thinking about it, she began to chirp in an attempt to get Katie's attention. As she finished examining the last pillar, the brown weasel skittered into the ward room, stopping suddenly as she realized what they'd found.
Katie began to chitter excitedly as she nodded to the doorway. With her acute avian hearing, Evelyn heard the footsteps and muttered voices of approaching people that Katie must've already heard. Quickly finishing her task, Evelyn led the way back to the storeroom and safety.
The werewolf council chambers building was a rough-hewn, thatched roof house that would have been right at home England during A.D. 800. The glassless windows opened to the cool air, while smoke drifted out of the crude smoke hole in the centre of the roof. Harry glance behind him, checking that the Prince was as he should be. A quick nod from his blond friend allowed Harry to check with his fiancée. Hermione nodded her status that she would secure their friend should everything go pear shaped.
Remus pulled up short of the door where he raised his hand, giving the plank door three hard knocks.
"Who comes?" shouted a coarse voice.
"A wolf and guests come in peace," Remus replied in the ritual response.
"Come and be seen," growled the voice, finishing the admittance ceremony.
Harry took a deep breath as he followed Remus and Alex into the dark and smoky building. Mostly, events had proceeded as Remus had predicted. This was where his prognostication ran out though.
"With Greyback dead, I really have no idea how the council will respond. The visits their envoys made to the Cotswolds seem to indicate that they'll be less than disposed to neutrality in the conflict, much less in supporting the Crown," Remus had opined before they left Spain. "They shouldn't attack in the council chambers, but once out the door, all bets are off."
With that ominous memory, Harry squared up on Remus' left shoulder; William to Harry's left, in turn. The shuffle of fabric behind the two young men indicated that Hermione had taken up her position directly behind the Prince, one hand on him and the other on her portkey. None were taking any chances with William's safety for a variety of reasons.
On a low dais, three women and two men people sat. An old man with long iron-grey hair, who sat in the centre of the group, began the discussion as he grunted, "I am Madadh, why do you come before us Wolf Lupin?"
Nodding to the old man in a measured gesture of respect, Remus replied, "It is good to see you again, Madadh." Gesturing to Alex on his right, he introduced her, "This is my mate, Alexandra Lupin. She is a Healer." There was murmuring amongst the council and those who'd slipped in behind the Pride. A Healer could be of great benefit to the pack. "Do you lead the pack of Yorkshire?"
A half scowl and sneer stole over the old man's wrinkled face, "Of a sort. What do you want, young wolf?"
From the dark corner a harsh voice barked, "Who cares what he wants? Tear out his traitor throat and I will feast on his heart!" Stepping forward, the previously cowed Vuk stared at Remus with single minded hatred.
"Quiet sionnach!" commanded Madadh with derision dripping from his voice. The other four elders curled their lip in a decidedly canine fashion of derision as Madadh continued, "I saw this young wolf best you without breaking his stride. Be silent and let your betters speak you white bellied scavenger."
Harry's eyebrows arched, there was much going on of which the Pride was unaware. If it helped them in their goal, he was a big fan of the discordancy.
As Madadh turned back to Remus, he nodded permission to speak. "As I said at the door, we come in peace." Gesturing vaguely with his left hand, Remus declared, "We come with hope for the pack and look for participation in a path forward of peace and equality."
"Equality?" barked a woman on the council. "You speak madness. There is no equality for the Wolf in Magical Britain."
"There was no equality, that is true," William answered before anyone could stop him. "But there will be."
"I know your face, boy," Madadh questioned as he peered at the Crown Prince through the darkness, "but I don't know your name. You speak boldly for a cub."
Straightening, William answered the unspoken question, "I am William, Prince of Wales and heir to the throne of Great Britain."
The other man on the council, a dark haired and bearded man, began to laugh, before addressing Remus, "So, Wolf Lupin, you bring us a Princeling of the magical world," He indicated to Harry, "and of the muggle world." You think to purchase our services as the Dark Lord commanded them? We are not purchased cheaply."
"I do not want to purchase you," William answered. "I want to free you."
Now there was silence. After a long moment, Madadh replied in a soft tone, "Those are powerful words, cub. Many have come before us with honeyed tongue and false promises. Why should we believe you?"
With conviction, William responded before the words of Madadh stopped echoing off the walls, "Because I will be your King."
Again, the room was flooded with considering silence.
"Madness," the other man on the council hissed. His thick black beard quivered with agitation. "Even if this cub is who he says he is, he cannot 'free' us. Our curse is permanent. He will use us to further whatever end he has in mind then toss us on the rubbish heap like so many others have done." Gesturing dismissively with a dirty hand, the black bearded council member finished, "Let the pack hunt them all and end this insanity."
From behind them, Harry heard murmurs and growling. Annoyed, Harry deliberately caught the man's eye and held it. Dogs consider staring by another animal to be a challenge. A challenge was in line with the Boy-Who-Lived's temper right then. Without warning the black bearded werewolf leapt at Harry, snarling a slavering cry as he came while the room filled with exclamations of surprise.
Effortlessly, Harry slid to his left before lashing out with his right hand. He caught the man mid leap with a hard punch in the throat. Connecting with a popping noise, the man flipped over backwards, gagging and choking.
Seeing that the man was dying from a ruptured oesophagus, Alex asked the now standing Madadh, "May I use magic to heal him or should I let him die?"
The room was quiet again, but now it was a tense, simmering thing. Madadh shook his head with annoyed exasperation, "Heal him if you can. If you cannot, finish him." He retook his seat as the blonde healer moved to restore the fallen werewolf. After a stunning spell to calm him, she cast a series of spells.
While most everyone was paying attention to the drama on the floor, Harry was watching the crowd, and in particular, Vuk. So far, the burly man hadn't moved toward Remus or the rest of the pack, but he seemed to be the biggest threat. The rest of the crowd was viewing the Pride with sceptical interest.
"Stop this," William commanded in a soft, even tone.
Harry was surprised as the room stilled immediately. If he didn't know better, he'd have suspected that William cast a spell on all present, so complete was the obedience to his command. Readdressing the remining council members as Alex finished healing the bearded werewolf, "I am here in peace. Since becoming aware of the magical world, I've been astounded at the discrimination toward the non-pureblood." Gesturing to Remus, he continued, "One of the best men I know is a werewolf and he's married to a Healer of great skill." The systematic persecution of werewolves is a blight on the honour of Great Britain. A blight I intend to expunge."
The council regarded William with a different air. No longer was he 'cub'.
"What do you want from us?" asked Madadh resignedly.
"Look out for yourselves," William replied without hesitation. The surprise on all the Yorkshire pack was evident. "I want you to stop licking the heels of others, be they the Dark Lord or the Ministry. I want you to take care of the Wolves and families of the Yorkshire pack."
"And when the Dark Lord commands our obedience, what then?"
Harry didn't catch who asked, but William's reply was ready at hand once again, "Are you not a powerful pack? If you need assistance, you have but to ask for it." The Prince gestured with a closed fist – a sign of power – to Harry.
Catching his cue, Harry stood forward, "I am Harry Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived." He grimaced inside identifying himself like this. "I have encountered the Dark Lord five times and still live. I will help. My family will help." Saluting in the manner of the Roman soldiers of years gone by, he swore, "I give you my word that the House of Shrewsbury, the Ancient and Noble house of Potter will come to your assistance and muster our allies to your cause."
From behind them, Sirius stood forward on the other side of William, "So, too, will the Ancient and Noble house of Black."
The scepticism began to fade on the faces of the werewolves of the council. Vuk, however, wasn't giving up. "You have no voice here!"
Rolling his eyes, Madadh barked, "I told you to be silent, sionnach! If you will not control yourself, you will be removed." With a cruel smile, he amended, "Or would you like to try your mettle against the young Potter, here?" Nodding to the now healed but unconscious bearded man lying on the floor, "Perhaps you'll have more success?"
"Perhaps," Vuk snarled.
Harry tensed. He knew that he'd win any confrontation with Vuk, should it come to that, but that would not further their efforts. He squared to the snarling man, arm extended to the side for a quick draw of his wand. Harry whispered in a carrying tone, "That's not why we came here, but if you're feeling frisky, dog, come die."
Madadh and some of the council members gave barking laughter while looking on eagerly for a spot of entertainment.
This is going bad quickly, Harry thought to himself.
1. I own nothing. Thanks to all who reviewed the first thirty-one chapters of Last Casualties. And thank you to all of you for your patience as my motivation and muse hit a wall. Story status, as always, can be found on my Author's page on this website.
2. The recommendations for this chapter are two Harry Potter/Star Wars crossovers. Revenge of the Wizard by Darth Marrs (which is probably the best crossover and one of the best FFs I've ever read) and Harry Potter, the Jedi that Wouldn't Die by TheGuardianofLight. Both are great, both are fresh and new. If you've not read them, make the time.
3. Vuk is Croatian for wolf
4. The Night of the Long Knives took place across a week in early summer of 1934 in Nazi Germany where Adolf Hitler consolidated his power and removed perceived or actual political rivals. These murders (conducted primarily the SS and the Gestapo) gave Hitler an unshakable hold on Germany. The Night of Broken Glass (or Kristallnacht in German) was a pogrom carried out against German Jews in 1938 (post Anschluss) wherein roughly 90 Jews were murdered and over 30,000 were arrested and interred in concentration camps. Synagogues were vandalized and Jewish owned/run businesses were vandalized or destroyed. The Kristallnacht is widely considered to be the beginning of the Holocaust.
5. Madadh-allaidh is Scots-Gaelic for wolf. I appropriated the first half for the werewolf elder's name. Sionnach is Scots-Gaelic for fox; I imagine this would be a grave insult to a werewolf.
6. Yeah, cliffie. Don't worry, it won't be years before the next update (grins sheepishly). Chapter 33 is already rolling and the muse is back. After my father then mother in law passed away in quick succession, writing fanfic didn't seem so important any longer. Well, the itch to write has overcome 'other things', so I'm back in the saddle.
This chapter is in memory of my father; born July 8, 1943, died August 12, 2015. May he rest in peace.
Chapter complete 9/17/17